Coldframes & Fall Gardening

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This year, gardening has been difficult. We have faced a great deal of challenges. Our early spring gardens didn’t do as well due to flooding. And our summer gardens were late to get planted in many locations because of rainy weather and water soaked soils. Then, the rainy, cool weather shut off and we were faced with hot conditions and many of our plants had a lot of fungal diseases due to the rainy spring.

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So, now the option is to get a great fall garden to help stock your pantry and freezer with preserved vegetables for the winter. Fall gardens are a great way to grow many of our spring vegetable crops again for more harvest or to get harvest from plants that may not have been very productive in the spring. The good thing about a fall garden is that you can have less insect pressure on the plants in the fall because the peak numbers for many of our insect pests is in the summer, and should be tapering off by the fall. Hopefully you already planted your fall garden. They need to be planted in the beginning to the middle of August to ensure a harvest before frost hits.

If you didn’t get you fall garden planted in the beginning part of August, you still may have a chance to extend your growing season. You can build a coldframe. A coldframe is described by Missouri Extension as “a protected plant bed with no artificial heat added”. This is a good way to keep summer plants protected a bit longer into the fall or keep fall plantings a lot further into the fall. You build a box frame that is higher in the back than it is in the front and cover it with transparent plastic. This box is placed over the garden to increase the temperature of it by 5-10 degrees. You can even get a few more degrees warmer if you place a blanket over top of that on really cold nights.

Photo from Iowa State University Extension

Coldframe Photo from Iowa State University Extension

A coldframe garden should be placed on the south side of a building to receive the highest amount of sunlight to keep it warmest. If it gets warm during the day, you can lift the lid of the cold frame and prop it up to ventilate the garden. A coldframe can also be used in the spring to harden off any plants that you grow from seed indoors.

Coldframes are great to use to get a little more production out of some of our summer vegetable crops, especially if we see an early frost. It is also a great way to extend the growing period for many of our fall vegetable crops. This will allow us to go further into the fall.

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